Australia

New test to go after gonorrhoea superbug as antibiotic resistance spreads

0:00

An Australian-developed test for gonorrhoea has been created to help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance and to tailor treatment for patients.

Australian doctors have developed a new test for patients with gonorrhoea in a bid to tailor therapy and stop antibiotic resistance to the superbug.

The sexually transmitted infection is becoming increasingly difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance spreads across Australia and the world, according to researcher Associate Professor David Whiley.

Current standard treatment of the infection involves the use of two antibiotics - ceftriaxone and azithromycin - as some strains of gonorrhoea had developed resistance to a previously used antibiotic (ciprofloxacin), Assoc Prof Whiley.

But the new test can detect patients with strains of the infection that remain susceptible to ciprofloxacin, which can spare the use of stronger drugs by "recycling" an older one.

Australian doctors have developed a new test for patients with gonorrhoea. Pictured is the gonorrhoea-causing bacteria.
Australian doctors have developed a new test for patients with gonorrhoea. Pictured is the gonorrhoea-causing bacteria.
Supplied

"We are starting to run out of antibiotics, so we want to make the best use of all available antibiotics," Assoc Prof Whiley told AAP.

Up to 70 per cent of gonorrhoea infections could be treated with a single oral dose of ciprofloxacin if the susceptibility status was established prior to prescribing, he said.

Gonorrhoea, which can sometimes spread without symptoms, affects the genital area, throat or anus and can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if left untreated.

The test, which has been developed by SpeeDx in collaboration with the University of Queensland, has been submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for approval and has been approved for use in Europe.

It has been designed for health professionals to analyse samples already submitted by patients who present to a doctor or sexual health clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

Assoc Prof Whiley, who helped develop the test, said he hoped to influence treatment guidelines so doctors "get used to the idea of tailoring antibiotics".

"This is something we're hoping to change for a broad range of infectious diseases," he said.

"We don't want to go back to a situation where we are using new drugs for every single infection."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch